Probe points to baby swap
Mamata men to fill jails in bandh run-up
Powerless evenings ahead
Tryst with history on paternal path
The City Diary
CU rules upset work schedule
Traffic school at virtual dead-end
Hostel strike bogey grips boarders
Corporation labourers in funds snare
184 years on, history dawns

Calcutta, Jan. 7: 
The baby-swap case that had rocked Calcutta and its oldest teaching hospital, Medical College Hospital, in 1998, headed for a contentious denouement as the CBI submitted its final report to Calcutta High Court on Monday.

The four-year probe, involving 129 DNA tests and costing Rs 4 crore, supported the couple’s allegation that their baby boy had mysteriously disappeared from the hospital nursery and they were handed an infant girl instead.

The girl is now growing up at the home of Anandamohan Bhattacharya, a retired Calcutta and Bombay High Court chief justice, and has been christened Adrita.

It is very difficult to establish which child at the hospital nursery was whose, the investigators have concluded. For one, the hospital staff are known to tamper with the records.

Also, very few of the DNA tests of babies born during May-June 1998 “corresponded” with both parents’, the report stated, making it clear that it was quite impossible to establish beyond doubt the parentage of every baby born at Medical College.

It was in the third week of June 1998 that Anup Bhattacharya filed a case at Calcutta High Court, seeking its intervention in giving him and wife Keya back their son, born at M.R. Bangur Hospital on May 27.

The baby, born premature, had to be sent to Medical College Hospital nursery, which has an incubator. When Keya was released from hospital on June 4, she was handed a girl instead of their son, alleged the Bhattacharyas. The couple lodged an FIR with Bowbazar police two days later. Finding no redress, they moved court a fortnight later.

The court first asked the Calcutta Police detective department to probe the matter. Two nurses were prima facie found guilty of negligence, but the police pleaded that they be relieved of the probe, citing “lack of necessary wherewithal” to carry the case forward. The court then directed the CBI to take charge of the case.

The investigating agency focussed on two doctors (Asim Chakraborty and Bibhas Bairagi) for negligence of duty and found five nurses (Lalurani Das, Nandita Samanta, Rekha Datta, Shikha Bhattacharya and Nilima Das) and a group-D staff (Mahadeb Sardar) guilty of tampering with records.

But it could not trace the boy born to the Bhattacharyas or the parents of Adrita. The “tampered records” and the fact that very few of the DNA tests carried out on the 129 babies at the hospital matched both parents, led the agency to conclude that there was little else to be done.

The division bench, comprising D.P. Sengupta and Malay Basu, will give its order on Wednesday, said Supradip Ray, counsel for Anup Bhattacharya.


Calcutta, Jan. 7: 
The success of Thursday’s SUCI-sponsored statewide bandh, the first during the tenure of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as chief minister, depends largely on the nature and extent of Trinamul Congress participation.

Trinamul chairperson Mamata Banerjee has already declared that the January 10 bandh will be successful, with her party’s “active support”. The bandh, also backed by various Naxalite factions, has been called to protest the hike in hospital and education fees, the rise in power tariff and other “anti-people” measures.

Bhattacharjee, it is learnt, plans to call a special Cabinet meeting on Thursday. He has already asked his Cabinet colleagues to be present at Writers’ Buildings on the day. The government is all geared up to maintain normalcy. “This is an acid test for our policy not to allow rail rokos or roadblocks,” said a senior home department official. Party sources said while Bhattacharjee and his ministers will be busy at Writers’ Buildings, the party cadre will be on the streets to foil the bandh.

The run-up to the bandh begins on Tuesday, with Mamata Banerjee launching a law-violation and jail bharo programme at Esplanade. Traffic is expected to be severely disrupted along all arterial roads in the afternoon, as Trinamul supporters converge at the Gandhi statue on Mayo Road, before marching to Rani Rashmoni Road and courting arrest.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said government buses and trams will ply as usual on Thursday. Ferry services on the Hooghly will also be normal.

“I have also urged owners and organisations of private buses, minibuses, taxis and auto-rickshaws to ensure normal services,” added Chakraborty.

The CPM-dominated coordination committee on Monday launched a campaign against the bandh and asked all government employees to show up for work on Thursday.

CPM sources said the coordination committee has issued a whip on the matter. “I have told our members that if necessary, they will have to come to work on bicycles,” said Smarajit Roychowdhury, secretary of the coordination committee.

The Congress’ labour arm, Intuc, has made public its opposition to the bandh.

Lalbahadur Singh, veteran trade unionist and Intuc leader, said in a joint statement along with Citu, Aituc and other Left trade unions on Monday that the proposed bandh was “politically motivated”.

The city’s medical fraternity, however, came out in support of Thursday’s bandh. The Indian Medical Association (Calcutta branch) backed the health-specific issues raised by the SUCI and slammed castigated the government’s “300-per cent hike” in hospital fees.

“Every time the government announces a hike, it promises to improve facilities in state-run hospitals. It’s no different this time,” said IMA spokesperson Bishnu Mukherjee.


Calcutta, Jan. 7: 
Forty-five minutes to an hour — that’s how long Calcuttans will have to go without power every evening. This follows the West Bengal State Electricity Board (WBSEB) decision to restrict power supply to 200 mw. CESC draws 250 mw to 275 mw from the Board.

The shortfall in the CESC area on Monday touched 115 mw, with the power utility’s own generation dropping to 685 mw, from around 800 mw, as its Budge Budge unit is being overhauled. CESC is also struggling to cope with a shortage in Howrah, with the Damodar Valley Corporation restricting supply to 25 mw “due to non-payment of dues”.

WBSEB officials said on Monday they had already informed CESC that supply would be “restricted” on grounds of non-payment of dues. In a letter written to CESC on December 29, the Board states: “If payment against current monthly energy bills amounting to Rs 25.30 crore, as well as late payment surcharge on the instalment of Rs 4 crore against old dues, are not received within January 2, 2002, then we will be constrained to restrict power supply.”

A CESC spokesperson, however, denied receiving the letter. “We have not received any such letter from the WBSEB. There is no restriction from the Board,” he added.

Power minister Mrinal Banerjee refused to be drawn into the controversy. “I will not interfere in the matter. The Board and CESC will have to resolve the problem on their own,” he said.

Power cuts will also plague other parts of Bengal, with generating stations of the West Bengal Power Development Corporation Limited (WBPDCL) being overhauled. “This is a routine exercise every winter. We are trying to resume normal operations within a day or two,” said Banerjee.

Of the five units in Kolaghat, the fourth is being overhauled. The second unit is also shut due to “demand variation”. The fifth unit of Bandel and the fourth unit of Santaldih are also being overhauled. Low coal supply from Eastern Coalfields Limited (ECL) is also preventing the power plants from running at full capacity. “We are in talks with ECL to resolve the matter,” said B.K. Pal, WBPDCL managing director.


Calcutta, Jan. 7: 
“Okay, roll.” As the camera is turned on, he leans close to an aged gentleman and starts speaking: “This is Joshua, and I am at New Market in Calcutta, India.”

It was no docu-feature on Calcutta being shot on Monday morning. Clifford Cohen was simply trying to retrace his father’s footsteps through visits and interviews of members of the Jewish community in the city who knew “the old man” when he was here, some 50 years ago.

Clifford, who heads an animation production house in Los Angeles, is in town for Anima Utsav 2002, the city’s first animation film festival-cum-workshop, starting at Nandan on Tuesday. “I have heard so many crazy stories about this place from my father that I wanted to come here some time. So, when I received an e-mail from Tara (T.S. Ganguli, the man behind the festival), it was just the opportunity,” says the 42-year-old animation film producer.

It’s not just a return to roots for Clifford, for Calcutta features in his future plans as well. He wants to train children in collaboration with Ganguli’s Technology and Research Associates. His goal: To take the programme to Calcutta schools and nurture young talent.

“There’s something about animation that kids grasp immediately. My company goes to schools and picks up students, aged six to 17, who produce community messages against drugs, AIDS, tobacco and other social problems. They produce their own animation. We just act as the facilitators,” says Clifford. The messages are then telecast on channels like Kids WB (Warner Brothers), Cartoon Network, and Fox Kids. At the festival, Clifford will be conducting similar workshops for budding animation artists.

Clifford’s father Fred A. Cohen was born in Rangoon in 1919 and came over to Calcutta when the Japanese invaded Burma before World WarII.

“That was 1942. We had to evacuate,” recounts Ellis Joshua, Clifford’s second cousin, who runs Trinca’s. “My father went to Calcutta University, from where he did his MA and Ll.B. He was one of the first members of the non-British community to gain admission to Calcutta Swimming Club,” says Clifford.

He went to his father’s flat at Park Mansion within hours of landing in Calcutta on Sunday. “It seems to be a computer school now… I’ll go back to check it out,” he says, going through a list of must-see places his father and aunts have drawn up. “They all speak Hindi, and when I was small and they didn’t want me to understand something, they would switch to it. I have picked up smatterings,” he grins and adds: “Apka name kya hai?”

“Though I was born in London, Calcutta was such a strong part of my upbringing. I am proud of my father’s roots and I am grateful to Calcutta for the way the city accepted them in those hard times. Right now, I am busy trying to understand where I’m from. I don’t have much time, as these people are not getting any younger and the community here is shrinking,” says Clifford, heading for the Mogen David synagogue on Canning Street.

Fred Cohen, 82, is “waiting at home” to see the city of his youth through his son’s eyes.



Trinamul set to lose four seats in CMC

Trinamul Congress’ majority in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation may dip to 66 as the municipal affairs department has asked CMC chairman Anil Mukherjee to cancel the candidature of four Congress councillors who had subsequently defected to Trinamul Congress without official intimation. Member, mayor-in-council, market, Samsuzzaman Ansari is one of the four councillors, the three others being Rajkishore Gupta, Mumtaz Begum and Minda Kumar. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee on Monday evening held a confidential meeting with Anil Mukherjee over the future course of action. Sources in the mayor’s office said if Ansari has to step down, he will be replaced by Iqbal Ahmed.

CMC files suit against club

The civic health department filed a suit against The Saturday Club in the municipal magistrate court as the sample of groundnut oil collected from the club kitchen in September failed to clear the laboratory test. Member, mayor-in-council, health, Javed Ahmed Khan said the sample of sunflower oil collected from AAEI kitchen, however, was found satisfactory. He said the CMC would start raiding kitchens of clubs, following complaints that a number of them had been using artificial colours in the food.

Station eviction

The railways will not evict hawkers from the platforms and stalls on premises of stations in and around Calcutta without the support of the state government. The newly-appointed inspector general of Railway Protection Force P.F. Passa also made it clear that the force would not confine itself to to the eviction issue but also check pilferage of railway property.

Sex workers’ meet

Around 7,000 sex workers will participate in a seminar against terrorism, organised by Durbar Mahila Samannay Samity, at Salt Lake Stadium. The meet is to start from March 3. According to sources, at least 1,300 sex workers from Australia, England, Brazil, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Germany and the Netherlands will participate in the programme, which will also involve 5,000 sex workers from different districts of West Bengal. Calcutta was chosen over various other cities around the world for the mega meet which will make a plea for peace. The Salt Lake youth hostel has been booked to put up the sex workers from outside the state. The Samity has put up information about the meet on the Net.

Forged passport

A man was arrested at the airport for travelling on a forged passport. The passenger, an Indian national, arrived from Bangkok on Monday. Police said the seal on his passport was forged. Last Sunday, another passenger from Bangkok was held with forged papers.

Multimedia contest

Cue Point 2002, a competition for multimedia students, organised by Arena Multimedia, ended on Sunday with the award-giving ceremony at Kala Mandir. Prizes were handed over to winners in all 15 categories. Over 450 students of the Arena Kankurgachhi centre showcased their multimedia skills in various categories.    

Calcutta, Jan. 7: 
Calcutta University’s (CU) new set of rules to improve work culture among non-teaching staff appears to have created pandemonium with employees lining up before the central offices to sign attendance registers. The new rules came into effect from January 1.

Since last week, the CU campuses have been witnessing virtual stampede every morning and evening as employees jostle to get hold of the attendance register, so that they are not marked absent.

Serpentine queues can be seen at CU campuses on College Street, Rajabazar, Ballygunge, Alipore, and Baranagar, as the staff of 500 file in to sign on the register.

The most concerned with the development are the teachers and heads of laboratory-based subjects. Non-teaching employees working in the laboratories have to leave much before 5.15 pm to reach the central office and sign the departure time.

“The worst hit are the students and the research scholars of science and technology faculties, who have to depend on the laboratory staff. The employees have to leave the labs sharp at 5.15 pm even if the students are in the middle of an experiment. We cannot stop the employees from leaving, as it is also important for them to sign the register,” said a senior teacher of the chemistry department.

“There are certain sections of employees, like those working in the controller of examination department and the laboratories, who are required to stay back after duty hours almost throughout the year. Over-emphasis on signing of registers during departure will create immense problems for them,” said a senior official of the controller of examination department.

As a disciplinary measure, the university has made it mandatory for nearly 3,000 non-teaching staff members to sign attendance registers on their arrival as well as on their departure within a fixed period of time.

The university has decided to keep the registers at a centralised location so that the authorities could closely monitor the employees and take action if anyone leaves the campus before the scheduled time.

According to the new system, the departure time has been fixed at 5.30 pm and the employees have been asked to sign the registers between 5.15 pm and 5.30 pm. Apart from the employees, the students’ unions are also concerned with problems arising out of the new rules.

Buddhadeb Chatterjee, general secretary of Calcutta University Unity Centre, urged the authorities to ensure peaceful academic activities.


Calcutta, Jan. 7: 
Ram Naresh Yadav is your average cabbie, who got his licence after going through an apology of a training and paying a few hundreds to motor vehicles inspectors. Caught on the road for the third time — for throwing the rule-book to the wind — he was brought to a training centre after the mandatory punch-hole in his licence book. This one, however, is unlike anything Yadav has seen.

Shuttled from room to room, where he is given hands-on training (simulation techniques take care of the fact that he is a few hundred yards from the nearest thoroughfare), he leaves the centre a wiser driver.

When Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) gave the police department a 12 bigha-plot three years ago, the city thought it was on its way to witness a computerised, state-of-the-art traffic training centre. But with sponsors, according to officials, not thinking that the proposed locale is much of an eye-catcher and the government short of funds, the dream appears distant.

When the traffic department acquired the plot near CMC’s Paikpara reservoir in 1998, the officials thought it was the end of their woes. The training centre at Park Circus was proving inadequate for even the under-15 brigade, officials explained.

Soon after acquiring the Paikpara plot, officials drew up plans for making Calcutta the place to head for, as far as urban traffic training was concerned. “We had even finalised plans for computerised models to simulate on-the-road situations,” deputy commissioner (traffic) M.K. Singh told Metro.

Video-shows of urban traffic around the world were on the anvil to make Calcutta’s professional drivers and schoolchildren aware of things elsewhere, officials said. With dormitories and guestrooms being a part of the complex, it was being thought of as a one-stop centre for officials dealing with traffic problems.

But the walling-up of the plot changed all equations. “The walling itself cost us around Rs 3 lakh,” an official said. “It made us understand the enormity of the task — some call it a virtual impossibility —as what we had envisaged would have cost nothing less than a crore,” he added.

Several sponsors, mostly major oil corporations, were sounded out, but none of them responded favourably, officials said. “One of them is the sponsor for the smaller training centre at Park Circus, but the location of the new project in the extreme north of the city did not please them,” an official said.

Deputy commissioner Singh, however, said the police were not yet giving up the project. “Every company wants to be associated with a prime-location project,” Singh said, but insisted that the greater problem was the government funds crunch.


Calcutta, Jan. 7: 
An indefinite strike by hostel staff, including Class IV employees, from Tuesday, is likely to inconvenience nearly 10,000 under-graduate and post-graduate students in the city.

Students of Jadavpur University, Calcutta University and Rabindra Bharati University, as well as those availing of the hostel facilities of Presidency College and other under-graduate colleges in Calcutta, met the authorities of the respective institutions on Monday and requested them to make alternative arrangements.

The hostel employees have, reportedly, decided to strike owing to the apathy shown towards their long-standing financial demands.

“We may have to buy food, as the kitchen will remain closed during the strike. We do not know how long we can continue staying in the hostels, since expenses will rise,” said Ram Prahlad Choudhury, general secretary of the SFI-controlled students’ union of Calcutta University.

With classes resuming after Christmas vacation, a large number of boarders are going to be affected.

Rajat Banerjee, registrar of Jadavpur University, however, said that his institution was aware of the problem and would take necessary measures if the strike continued.


Calcutta, Jan. 7: 
Even before the dust has settled on the non-banking finance company (NBFC) scam, the civic authorities woke up to another racket involving mazdoors. According to mayor Subrata Mukherjee, the Mazdoor Mutual Fund, launched by the CPM, Trinamul Congress and Citu, is a scheme to fleece poor labourers.

“We have already collected printed forms of the fund, which is neither a registered body nor approved by the Reserve Bank of India,” Mukherjee asserted. “I have been told that it is the brainchild of a CPM activist,” he added.

The fund is aimed at collecting nearly Rs 4 crore a year from 15,000 civic mazdoors, mostly neo-literates. The unions had, reportedly, hit upon the mutual funds idea after they realised that the newly-introduced salary by cheque facility would rob them of hafta collection. The workers have to furnish undertakings, saying a certain sum can be deducted from their salary as instalments for repaying loans.

The two-page form has been printed to look “official”. Space has been allotted for the signature of the departmental head, alongwith the Corporation seal. The application form for membership shares (at Rs 10 each) and the loan application form are printed on the same sheet. Mazdoors are asked to put thumb impressions in three places on the form. This transfers power of attorney to the chairman or the secretary of the mutual fund, even though he might not have taken a loan.

In most cases, the form is filled by racketeers, who put fictitious loan amounts. One such blank form, with the thumb impression of a mazdoor, is now with the mayor. However, on the form, neither the rate of interest nor the dividend is mentioned.

President of the Trinamul Congress workers’ union Sovandeb Chattopadhyay said: “I have no knowledge about such a mutual fund. If any member of my union is involved, the authorities are at liberty to take action.”

Amalendu Bhattacharya of the CMC Citu wing said: “We are against any form of extortion. If the mayor furnishes specific information, I am ready to take action.”


Calcutta, Jan. 7: 
Shabbir Ahmed has created history by becoming the first Muslim teacher in Hindu School, but he does not believe he has achieved anything exceptional.

“Of course, I am proud to be associated with an institution, which had direct links with the renaissance of Bengal, but other than that, I do not feel it’s a historic achievement,” Ahmed told Metro on Monday.

Muslim students have been studying in the institution since 1970, but it took nearly 184 years for Hindu School to appoint a Muslim teacher.

“The circle was complete with Ahmed joining the school on December 21,” said Bishnucharan Chatterjee, headmaster.

Ahmed, 44, who has done his masters in modern history, had taught in Jalpaiguri District Government School and Barasat Pyaricharan Rashtriya Vidyalaya for the past 15 years. Hailing from Hooghly district, he completed his schooling from Calcutta Modern High School.

According to sources, when Hindu School was founded in 1817, only Hindu students and teachers were taken in.

With the passage of time, changes started taking place, with a Muslim student being admitted in Class V in 1970. Later, however, several Muslim students were taken in.

Chatterjee said: “I do not understand why the media is so eager to make an issue out of this. Is there anything unusual about Shabbir joining my school? He is an Indian and a good teacher.”

Chatterjee said there was a vacancy for the post of a history teacher, in which Ahmed fitted in. “I know him since he was my colleague at Barasat Pyaricharan. His family lives in Calcutta. Naturally, I recommended his name,” Chatterjee added.

But Chatterjee agreed that all along, Hindu School never took in Muslim teachers. “It is time we dispensed with this narrow outlook. I am proud that a Muslim teacher has joined the school during my tenure,” he added.

The students were quite pleased with the new teacher. Adhar Sen of Class VII finds Ahmed “soft-spoken and pleasant.” Recollecting the day Ahmed joined, Sen says that they were all asked to be present during the “historic moment” but adds that he has no idea how Ahmed teaches, since the school shut down for Christmas vacations right after the ceremony.


Maintained by Web Development Company